Flooding across the county is now a perennial and repeated problem, and the North Oxfordshire Green Party are calling for a credible multi-agency response to flooding problems in Cherwell and beyond. Flooding is now a regular occurrence across the district and in areas like Bicester, Kidlington, Yarnton and Begbroke district and parish councillors have been trying to deal with both the aftermath and the immediate threat posed by these challenging and distressing events.
Much of this is due to the impact of climate change, but there are also problems created by lack of proper maintenance of flood defences, culverts and swales. Increased development on surrounding areas has also exacerbated the problem, and with huge amounts of additional houses planned for the green fields around villages in South Cherwell, there are now serious concerns amongst residents about what the future holds.
Run-off from areas like Spring Hill are sources of flood water which now regularly hit the villages of Yarnton and Begbroke below. These are areas due to be built on as part of Cherwell’s recently adopted partial plan review (site PR9).
Councillor Ian Middleton (Cherwell District councillor and Yarnton Parish Councillor) commented, “I am regularly being contacted, both as a district and parish councillor, by residents watching flood water approaching their homes, yet there are very few options open to me to help them.
"These incidents often occur out of office hours. As a district councillor I have an emergency response number to call, but the last time I used that I was told I should call the police and ask them to deal with it. When I did so, the police operator seemed bemused that I was given that advice.
“Other agencies such as the fire service are quite understandably reluctant to tie up vital fire and rescue resources unless property has actually been inundated. This is quite a distressing situation to have to explain to residents who are trying to prevent that from happening in the first place.
“Thames Water are usually difficult to reach and often do very little when they are finally contacted. I hear regular complaints about blocked drains and flood channels as well as pumping stations either not working at all or being unable to cope with the level of flood water. Again, the only emergency contact I have for Thames Water is the same number that any member of the public can call.
“The county council will deliver sandbags, but usually by that point the situation has reached crisis level and residents have to hope that they will hold back water which may already be at their thresholds.
“There does seem to be a lot of buck passing going on between district and county councils, with various other bodies such as the highways department and the Environment Agency telling us it’s someone else’s responsibility.
“This just isn’t good enough. We need to stop treating these incidents as one-off events and put together a credible, structured, multi-agency response that can swing into action when needed with a direct point of contact for local representatives to call on in an emergency. It’s very frustrating as a local councillor not being able to help when residents expect you to have levers to pull that just aren’t available to us.
“This is not a criticism of individual agencies. There just seems to be no credible protocol about what can and should be done and who should be doing it. We need a central control point that can co-ordinate a response to all levels of flooding whenever and wherever it happens, as well as a local flood task force to ensure flood defences are mapped and regularly maintained.
“Advancing climate change means that we will now have to live with the escalating threat of flooding on a year-round basis. Increased development on what are now relatively permeable green spaces, such as Spring Hill in Begbroke will only make matters worse.
“Site promoters promise that they will put flood defences in place, but with the frequency and intensity of flooding increasing every year, most defences will eventually be overwhelmed. Developers are also usually more concerned with ensuring new properties don’t flood, with less consideration for the impact of new developments on existing residents. Areas that may in the past have been flood free will soon find themselves in the firing line with little hope of holding those responsible to account”.
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February 5th 2021